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Canada in 2030: What on Earth is happening?

Fatal heat waves, invasive alien species, shrinking forests, and struggling farmers - the reality of a changing climate in Canada is becoming harder to ignore, and the United Nations has stated that it is the biggest systematic threat to humanity.

In Water, Fire, Earth, Air - a four-part series - we will look at how climate change will affect different regions in Canada by categorizing the regions by element to provide a unique and comprehensive understanding of how Canadian life could change, assuming our carbon dioxide emissions continue along a business as usual scenario.

Home to majority of Canadians

Over 65 per cent of Canadians reside in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, yet these provinces make up just under 30 per cent of Canada's total land area.

The goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 raises the question, how will Canada change during this short period of time if the country doesn’t reach its goal?

Fast Facts

? Extreme weather events will be become more severe, unpredictable, and expensive to recover from

? Food supply will change - more crops could be wiped out by unusual weather at the beginning of growing seasons, different crops that favor warm weather will benefit while traditional crops will become more unreliable

? Forests across Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec could move northward, shrink in size, and suffer from increased pathogens and invasive alien species

? Public infrastructure is at increasing risk for damage and will cost taxpayers more money for repairs

? Warming is happening faster in Northern regions of provinces and impacting these communities faster than in southern regions

Manitoba - Challenges for farmers and Northern communities

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the province's auditor general has stated that Manitoba is currently lacking a central policy to assess how climate change will impact the province's critical resources, such as roads, bridges, power supplies, and agriculture. ?

Warming temperatures will upset the balance of forests, farms, and insects. Persistent high temperatures will alter soils and cause the top layer to become dry and susceptible to erosion by strong winds. Without moist soils vegetation will dry out and decay, which could increase flood risk as bushes and other plants help manage heavy rainfalls and reduce flooding risks. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, and storms could release larger amounts of precipitation which not only presents a physical threat to humans, but could cause floods that harm livestock and carry bacteria, fertilizers, and sewage into waterways and aquifers.

Some jokingly refer to Winnipeg as 'The Mosquito Capital of Canada', and unfortunately these pesky bugs will continue to swarm in as temperatures rise. Climate determines the range of insects like mosquitoes, and warmer temperatures will create new and favourable environments for insects that carry infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

While mosquitos and ticks are moving in, forests are moving out - numerous tree species are struggling with warmer temperatures and forests have begun to inch north to cooler regions. The northern latitudes of Manitoba are expected to warm faster than the southern regions of the country - winters could be between warmer by 6 to 12 degrees Celsius, which could cause portions of the province's boreal forests range to shift north by 150 to 200 kilometres. Arctic soils could prevent further growth northward, so the southern portions of the forests that contain economically significant species, such as hardwoods like aspen, could shrink as drought-intolerant species might not be able to withstand warmer, drier conditions.

Traditional crops like wheat have been struggling to deal with drought and severe storms, and some farmers have begun planting new crops that favour warmer temperatures to ensure a stable income in spite of the changing climate. Decades ago minimal amounts of soy was grown in Manitoba, but now the province supplies over 20 per cent of the entire country's soy production.

Temperature warming is threatening the reliability of winter roads in Manitoba's Northern communities, which are essential for access to food, supplies, and transport. Roads, housing and other infrastructure that is built on permafrost is at risk for instability and collapse as it begins to melt and alters the shape of land.

So what will happen by 2030?

? Increased rates of vector-borne illnesses, like Lyme disease and West Nile virus, will affect more people and regions that have never before dealt with this problem. Greater investments will have to fund more monitoring and reporting of pathogen risks and outbreaks.

? Persistent warm temperatures could trigger drought conditions and could put a strain on communities that rely on agriculture. Extreme weather events could cause mass fatalities of livestock, flooding, soil erosion, and could destroy an entire growing season’s progress. Foreign pests could invade grasslands and harm crop species and reduce their nutrient qualities.

? Traditional crops like wheat will be increasingly replaced by heat-tolerant crops like corn and soy.

? Northern communities will face greater challenges with accessing food and other supplies - fluctuations in temperatures during the winter could melt and destroy winter roads that took significant resources to construct and are a critical means for accessibility.

? Forest ranges could change by moving northward, shrinking, or become more susceptible to drier, warmer conditions.

Modern land use patterns leave many parts of these provinces unrecognizable compared to photographs of them 100 years ago. Majority of the populations live within 160 kilometres of the United States border in urbanized cities that consume lots of energy and produce lots of waste. The surrounding natural resources from all provinces are critical components of Canada’s economy that are processed by farming, agriculture, lumber, mining, and manufacturing.

In 2016 Ontario and Quebec were the second and third highest carbon emitting provinces and despite their decrease of carbon dioxide emissions over the years, drastic strategies have to be implemented to reduce emissions by approximately 200 megatonnes to meet the target of 523 megatonnes- this reduction is equivalent to the entire province of Alberta producing zero carbon dioxide emissions for an entire year.

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